Smoking Linked to Skin Cancer in Women12/15/11
THURSDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- If you're a woman who
smokes and you are looking for another reason to quit, consider
this: A new study has found a link between tobacco use and skin
The study found that women who had squamous cell skin cancer
were more likely to have smoked than those who were free from the
disease. And those who smoked at least 20 years were twice as
likely to develop squamous cell skin cancer, a less aggressive form
of skin cancer than melanoma.
Men who smoked had a modest risk for the two types of
non-melanoma skin cancer -- basal cell and squamous cell cancer --
but the results weren't statistically significant, the study
"We don't know why," said study lead author Dana Rollison, referring to the difference between women's and men's risk. Both men and women get a lot of exposure to the sun, the main risk factor for skin cancer, she noted.
But lung cancer research may offer a clue, said Rollison, an
associate member in the Moffitt Cancer Center department of cancer
epidemiology, in Tampa, Fla. Hormonal differences affecting the
metabolization of nicotine and the body's ability to repair damage
to lung DNA caused by smoking have been noted before, suggesting
that the female hormone estrogen may play a role, she said.
The study, published online in the journal
Cancer Causes Control, was done at the Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of South Florida, also in Tampa.
For the study, 383 patients with skin cancer were compared to
315 people without the disease. The participants were asked how
much they smoked, when they picked up the habit and the total
number of years they'd smoked. A total of 355 men and 343 women
were included in the study. All were white, the group most at risk
for skin cancer. Risks for both types of non-melanoma skin cancer
were analyzed separately, compensating for the presence of other
The researchers found that the more people smoked, the more
likely they were to have skin cancer, Rollison said. Men who had
basal cell skin cancer were significantly more likely to have
smoked for at least 20 years than men with no cancer, the study
While the study found an association between smoking and skin
cancer risk, it did not prove a cause and effect.
Despite the elevated smoking-related risk among women, men
overall are more likely to get skin cancer, Rollison noted. She
said that "it is possible men's skin is more sensitive to sun
exposure than women's."
But another skin cancer expert suggested that men may be less
inclined to use sunscreen or other protection when outdoors.
"Although it could just be a genetic difference (between men and women), men tend to have more unprotected sun exposure in their lives," said Dr. Jeffrey Dover, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University Medical School.
Dover said the study findings weren't surprising because "we
know cigarette smoke contains carcinogens" and smokers are "blowing
the smoke and ash around their faces all day."
The study is important, he added, because "although we have done
well, we can do even better" at eliminating smoking as a cause of
disease. "This adds more fuel to the idea that smoking has no place
in our society."
Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in
the United States, where about 2 million cases are treated
annually, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Squamous cell cancer occurs in the epidermis, the top layer of
skin, and can spread to other organs. Basal cell skin cancer occurs
in the dermis, the skin layer beneath the epidermis. While it does
not spread to other organs, it is far more common than squamous
cell cancer, according to the government agency.
To learn more about skin cancer, visit the
U.S. National Cancer Institute.
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